2008’s Presidential Size Financers
by Ben Tolksdorf


Among the less visible aspects of the 2008 Presidential election are the powerful relations between the candidates and their contributors. In most dealings, top dollar donors are promised a sympathetic presidential ear on which to bend their interests.

There too has been a tradition of appointing contributors to serve cabinet positions in the executive interior. Irrespective of qualifications, the trend was seen as early as 1920 when Warren G. Harding campaigners promised oilman Jake Harmon the office of Secretary of the Interior. Harding later denied Harmon the position in favor of Senator Albert B. Fall, who was later imprisoned for illegal exchanges with another oilman in what became known as the Teapot Dome scandal.

More recently, President Bill Clinton awarded 56 top donors with joy rides on Air Force One and Marine One (the presidential helicopter) in 103 recorded flights (not atypical of irresponsible defense spending). Contributors have also enjoyed appointments to international posts and the glamorous Kennedy Center for the Arts Board of Trustees. Presidential campaigners seem to spare no opportunity to enlarge their purses, evidenced for instance by the price tag on a photo opportunity with President G.W. Bush: $50,000.

A less expensive but more telling likeness of campaign politics can be seen by profiling those who stand behind presidential hopefuls. Though the best campaign-finance data connects names and occupations to dollar amounts and candidates, it fails to detail who the donors are in terms of their potential to affect you and me.

Nonetheless, in a system where dollars reign supreme to democracy, this data cannot be denied proper consideration. In the profile of organizations that follows, mind the fact that these bodies themselves do not donate; the money comes from the organization’s political action committee (PAC), its individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals’ immediate families.

Goldman Sachs is a high profile investment bank which closely monitors economic policy, trade and nearly all legislation affecting the financial sector. The bank has supported the drive to privatize social security, not to mention legislation which would basically deregulate the investment banking and securities industries.
According to the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics, Goldman Sachs has donated $1,561,256 to Democratic candidates including Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, and Chris Dodd; an additional $590,165 was split among Republicans Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, and John McCain.

Interestingly, the University of California chose to endorse only one candidate: Barack Obama, to whom contributors gave a generous $126,972. Aside from being victim to Vietnam era student protests right here in Isla Vista, Bank of America has also lobbied for favorable legislation, including changes to privacy laws and a bankruptcy reform bill that would force consumers to repay at least some of their debts. Bank of America associates have donated a total of $891,624 among candidates Dodd, Giuliani and Joe Biden.

Top consumer credit card issuer, JP Morgan Chase & Co. has also lobbied for bankruptcy reform and banking deregulation, through its subsidiary Chase Bank. JP Morgan affiliates have donated to Republicans Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and Alan Keyes, with receipts totaling $489,639. JP Morgan also donated $1,025,755 to Democrats Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Chris Dodd.

Morgan Stanley is another of the world’s top investment institutions which, like the others promotes the deregulation of the securities industry and the privatization of social security. The bank has lobbied for proposals favorable to the extension of financial services by investment firms. Morgan Stanley associates have supported Barack Obama and Chris Dodd with $971,477 and Republicans Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee with nearly $518,000.

Time Warner is one of the most expansive media corporations in the world. Its current lobbying efforts are focused on relaxing the restrictions prohibiting cable television stations from also owning broadcast stations in the same market. Its colleagues have donated to both Democratic forerunners, Barack Obama ($142,718) and Hillary Clinton ($124,150). Rival media giant News Corporation contributed nearly $100,000 to Clinton’s campaign as well.

On January 22, Clinton cited the connection between her opponent Obama and one of his financiers, Exelon Corp. Reportedly, this corporation accounts for almost one fifth of the nation’s nuclear power capacity. It has come under fire in recent years for its attempt to establish a nuclear waste cite near Illinois’ Yucca Mountain. Contributions coming from employees and their families include a $2,300 donation from Chairman John W. Rowe, better known as “Mr. Nuke” by Fortune magazine.

To provide some clue as to Clinton’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, consider Haim Saban, creator of the Power Rangers. Apparently, the Israeli-American media entrepreneur’s prime political interests lie with Israel, his public comments indicate ardent support. Saban donated $9,200 to Clinton’s campaign in 2007 and with the help of his wife, co-hosted an event that raised an additional $850,000 in May at the Los Angeles abode of News Corporation President Peter Chernin. So it seems that few in this race are without their slanted donors.